Thursday, November 29, 2012

Steve Blow on hateful rhetoric

No, America has not become 
the land of the freebie
by Steve Blow
I hope they are just sore losers. Because the only other explanation 
is massive ignorance.
A steady refrain in the last week is that Barack Obama’s re-election 
proves we’ve become a nation of lazy parasites.
I first noticed it just a day or two after the election in a column by 
our own op-ed columnist Mark Davis. He said he didn’t blame the 
GOP defeat on Mitt Romney. “But I lament a country where the 
middle class is more attuned to government benefits than the work 
ethic that was once our nation’s engine,” he wrote.
And as a piece of writing, it has a nice ring to it. The only thing
missing is the ring of truth. What overwrought nonsense.
I daresay that most people reading this right now are members
of the middle class. So let’s take a littlesurvey: Have you traded
your work ethic for a government check?
Of course not. And neither have your neighbors. Neither have the
vast, vast majority of Americans — rich, poor and in between.
But day after day, letters to the editor showed up with the same
sentiment. “Our new normal is that of the social welfare states
of Western Europe with people looking to the government for
their salvation,” an Allen man wrote.
“The people have spoken. Welfare checks, food stamps and
free cellphones are more important than freedom and opportunity,”
a Dallas man wrote the day after that.
It was reflected in my emails, too. One message was titled
“The Lesson of the Election.” And it began: “Santa Claus is always
more popular than hard work.”
On my Facebook page, a reader posted: “Truth = People Want
Free Stuff = Obama Victory.”
But the last straw for me was, of all things, a limerick.
I had enjoyed the clever dueling limericks in the Saturday
papers during the campaign. And this past Saturday, the
Obama backer wrote a nice wrap-up rhyme calling for citizens
to unite and work together. And the Romney supporter wrote:
The way it turned out shouldn’t stump us,
The way that they’ve grounded their compass
’Cuz the left sees authority
With hefty majority
Now layin’ around on their rumpus.
Where in the world does this idea come from that we’re
suddenly a nation of slackers, all getting by on the Obama dole?
I guarantee it doesn’t come from anyone who actually works with
the poor and the struggling.
If rampant laziness and easy government money are a problem,
Larry James ought to know it. He gave up his comfortable, suburban
Church of Christ ministry 18 years ago to work full time with the urban
poor. He’s CEO of CitySquare, formerly Central Dallas Ministries.
And he says: “That’s ridiculous. It’s just not true. It’s all mythology —
‘welfare Cadillacs’ all over again.”
Even for the elderly and the disabled, government support is meager,
James said. For everyone else,government assistance is rarer and
harder to get than ever, he said.
“I don’t know where these people are coming from. What programs?
What freebies? What golden goose? It’s not based on anything that’s
true,” James said.
Are there some who take advantage? Who are lazy? Of course.
“But the one thing I have learned in 181/2 years is that laziness and
sorriness are spread at about the same depth across the socio-
economic spectrum,” James said.
“I have met some lazy and sorry poor people, and I have known
some lazy and sorry rich people, too.”
James said the larger problem he sees in our society isn’t a
breakdown in the work ethic but in compassion. “It’s a failure of
community. It’s a failure to feel a connection,” he said.
So don’t fret. America is still a nation that works. But is it still a
nation that cares?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No time to celebrate

Last Friday, I attended the funeral service of a 13-year-old child who was shot in the head earlier in the week.  I didn't know the young man, but his grandfather is a dear friend. 

It seems the boy, who recently had moved to the Lake Highlands area with his family, went back to his old neighborhood to see some friends.  Somehow he got tangled in a gangland style drug deal that went very wrong.  He lost his life because of a bad decision and some bad timing. 

The funeral slammed me emotionally.  The boy had adjusted well to his new school.  He made friends quickly.  His grades were all good.  He joined the football team, and was a key player.  As I viewed  his small body, I saw he was wearing his football jersey and a pair of  wide receiver or defensive back gloves.  They were pink, just like the gloves one of my grandsons asked me to get him for Christmas. 

The funeral went about like all funerals among poor folks.  The pastors assured us that this was a time for "celebration," faith and thanksgiving. 



Now, I think I get the intent.  I served as a pastor for almost 25 years.  At times of grave loss, as this one, we want to lift up and not cast down.  We want to encourage and not add to the burden of loss.  I get that, believe me.

But, maybe that typical approach is no longer adequate or even appropriate with the lives of so many children on the line today. 

Maybe it's time for a pastor to stand up and say, "Enough!  Enough, Lord, enough!"

I mean, I wanted to stand up and shout, "We ain't gonna take this any more!" 

Where is the leader who will dismiss the service after inviting everyone to gather in the fellowship hall for first of weekly community organizing meetings? 

We've got work to do, folks!  Our babies are being snuffed out while we sing  more of the same old songs, and speak of God as if God needs our defense.  Maybe God does.  I certainly have a question or two of my own. 

But, this is not about us or our faith or our traditions.  This is no platform for a "spiritual performance." This is a place of tragedy reserved for pure, hard grief. 

This is about life and death and justice and fairness and, and beautiful children being killed while we take our ease in thoughts of life after this one. 

Sorry, but no one has dismissed us from our primary assignment:  bringing the will of heaven to the earth, and that doesn't include 2-hour services that celebrate the death of a child. 

There is nothing to celebrate in the death of a bright, beautiful, bewildered young boy like we laid to rest last Friday. 

There is, however, much to ponder. 

This kid was set up by a childhood dominated by poverty, confusion and little hope.  Even when he broke out of a part of his trap, he didn't have all that he needed to make it.  He was so young.  But he had found something on the street that he didn't find in his options in the community as it existed for him.  He certainly didn't find what he needed in the church.  The holes destroyed him. 

It's past time for adults to get together and force the change we need.  That means parents, pastors, school leaders, politicians, policy makers, academics, business leaders and community gate keepers.  It is time to make some changes.  Everything comes into sharper focus when you are gazing in the casket of a 13-year-old child.  Everything, including public policy and community reform.

The young man has gone on.  His life is in the hands of God. 

But our work is here and it is now.  Forgive me, but I don't think we have the time right now to think much more about heaven and the "other side."  Not with so much "hell" all around us, including other babies that likely will be sacrificed while we carry on with business as usual.

Celebrate the death of a 13-year-old baby? 

Forgive me, but I just can't get there. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

High risk

 The kingdom which was the theme of Jesus' preaching and teaching is not a low-risk, blue-chip investment created for our consumption. It can't be calmly considered and casually digested. It can't be domesticated, nor can its leader be restrained from his continuous challenge to our way of life.

Prologue, The Cotton Patch Parables of Liberation
--Bill Lane Doulos

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thinking of friends

Today I'm thinking of my friends, people like Art, Wendy, Joe, Blue and many more. 

They call the streets of Dallas "home."

They possess almost nothing.

What they have, they share freely with their friends and neighbors.

If they eat today, they will eat a charity meal. 

Some will bed down in a shelter.  Some will find a resting place under a bridge or in an alley.

Every time I'm with them I hear expressions of thanksgiving. 

They are my best teachers when it comes to gratitude.

For them I am very, very thankful.

I hope that soon, very soon we'll have more houses to offer them. 

You know, real homes.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hate speech gets us nowhere

The Fort Worth Star Telegram published a story on November 8, 2012 that disturbed me deeply.  As a matter of fact, it just takes the cake! Under the headline, "Hardin GOP official: 'Maggots' elected Obama,"  Bud Kennedy reported the amazingly hateful comments of Hardin County Republican treasurer Peter Morrison.

Here's just a snippet of Kennedy's story:

Texas Republicans are already using the s-word.

One party official from Southeast Texas calls for -- not secession -- separation.
"Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government?" writes Hardin County Republican treasurer Peter Morrison, a Ron Paul supporter and author of a race-heavy Tea Party newsletter.
"Let each go her own way," he writes, demanding an "amicable divorce" from the U.S. and from the "maggots" who re-elected President Obama.
"Maggots who re-elected President Obama"?


Let me just say this sort of conversation destroys community, offends millions and has no place in a serious discussion about how to make the nation work.  Furthermore, this language hurts so many of my friends, people I love and respect.  How dare anyone speak of a fellow American in such a course, demeaning manner.  

Mr. Morrison, who do you think you are, sir?  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crushing loss

Recently, two friends have experienced the crushing loss of young loved ones.  Steve Wilkes lost his 23-year-old daughter, Amy who died suddenly in her sleep on November 9.  Lorenzo Brown, minister at the Central Dallas Church, his 13-year-old grandson was murdered in Dallas on last Tuesday morning.

During the memorial service for Amy Wilkes, Frank Alexander read the following quote from Mark Twain at the death of his daughter.

We do well to cherish our children and grandchildren, as well as one another, every day.

You have seen our whole voyage.  You have seen us go to sea, a cloud of sail--and the flag at the peak; and you see us now, chartless, adrift--derelicts; battered, water-logged, our sails a ruck of rags, our pride gone.  For it is gone.  And there is nothing in its place.  The vanity of life was all we had, and there is no more vanity left in us.  We are even ashamed of that we had; ashamed that we trusted the promises of life and builded high--to come to this!

I did know that Susy was part of us;Susy_clemens_poem_1 I did not know that she could go away; I did not know that she could go away, and take our lives with her, yet leave our dull bodies behind.  And I did not know what she was.  To me she was but treasure in the bank; the amount known, the need to look at it daily, handle it, weigh it, count it, realize it, not necessary; and now that I would do it, it is too late; they tell me it is not there, has vanished away in a night, the bank is broken, my fortune is gone, I am a pauper.  How am I to comprehend this?  How am I to have it?  Why am I robbed, and who is benefited?
I am working, but it is for the sake of the work--the "surcease of sorrow" that is found there.

--Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] (1835-1910), in a letter to a close friend after his favorite daughter Susy, aged 24, died of meningitis while her parents were abroad. Mark Twain and his wife never returned to the  home where she died.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed--what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don't bother anyone, that's the way many would like preaching to be. Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.
--Oscar Romero

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wyatt's no-hit inning!

Forgive me, but I have to post this video of Wyatt Toombs pitching his first no-hit inning. In all he pitched 1 and 2/3 innings and notched 5 big Ks!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mr. Obama, help us!

Finally, the national elections are behind us! 

Just possibly we can return to a more civil tone in our conversations and attitudes.  I hope so.

But, with President Obama headed for his second term, I have favors to ask of him and the new Congress. 

My requests relate to my own neighborhood and to the people who live around me, my neighbors.  I'll just put my priorities in a list without much comment.

Here goes:


1.  Please work to give us comprehensive immigration reform so that so many of us can live without the fear of deportation.  The vast majority of us work hard every day to make Dallas great.  Please give us all a pathway to legitimacy as residents and members of the labor force.

2.  If comprehensive immigration reform is not possible, then at least give us the DREAM Act to put our children in documented status so they can finish school and go to work legally.

3.  Help us obtain the workforce skills we need to land livable wage jobs.

4.  Make sure our children can attend public schools that work.

5.  Stay the course so that we can make progress in providing universal health care for all of us.

6.  Continue to fund programs like AmeriCorps, and take a look at how the programs of the Corporation of National and Community Service actually pay for themselves in public benefit and educational advancement.  AmeriCorps' ROI is astounding!

7.  Help us rebuild the blighted neighborhoods often referred to as the "ghetto," but known as "home" to many of us.

8.  Find ways to support/reward creative mayors who come up with new, innovative community renewal strategies that actually work!

9.  Incentivize the utilization of creative financial instruments like social impact bonds (SIBs).

10.  Lead the most progressive tax reform effort in our nation's history to promote policies that lift people and create new wealth at the bottom--I know those techniques exist and I know you are smart enough to identify them!

11.  Bring work back to the inner cities of the nation.

12.  Figure out how to make as many of those jobs as possible linked in training programs to the emerging "green economy."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's about justice

Systemic justice is a result-oriented justice

Marcus Borg contends that Jesus has something to say about the way we organize ourselves in community — that when a society is structured to serve the self-interests of the wealthy and powerful it is not a just society. “If you have a society in which 1% of the population own 43% of the wealth, it is pretty clear that the 1% has structured that society so it kind of worked out that way — and they have a tremendous amount of power to sustain it.”
– Marcus Borg in Living the Questions 2.0
Internationally known in both academic and church circles as a biblical and Jesus scholar, Marcus Borg was Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture in the Philosophy Department at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007. Borg has been described by The New York Times as “a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars” and is the author of over twenty books, including the popular “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” and “The Heart of Christianity.”
“LtQ Clips” offer thought-provoking observations and comments on spirituality and religion from prominent authors, scholars, and thinkers. These excerpts from“Living the Questions” curriculum are designed to spark conversation in questioning the dominant pop theology of American Christianity.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Presence and vision

When we conceived the CitySquare Opportunity Center, I never imagined it would share such a direct, penetrating view of our city. 


Ready for late spring, early summer 2013!

You or your group interested in a tour?  Call me!

Monday, November 12, 2012

76 years ago. . .

Forgive me, but I just couldn't resist!  The debates of today aren't much different from those of the past, are they? 

I didn't want to post this before the election because my motivation has to do with an acknowledgement of how history, no matter what your party affiliation, shows the present actually brings nothing new our way!

I really enjoy how comical FDR's body language is even though the camera is trained primarily on his face.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurry up. . .for what?

My new friend, Terry (see post from yesterday) told me a somewhat amusing story last week when we met. He described for me the approach of one organization that feeds the homeless and then leads them in a worship service. 

"While you are eating, the staff comes through urging you to 'hurry up and eat, hurry up now and eat your food!'" he reported. 

"Every time I've taken a meal from this group, they come through and rush you up before you  go to the church service," he explained.

"Well, one time when they came by rushing us, I shouted back, 'Well, you sure don't rush up the sermons in church!" he told me. 

"They rush the meal and then have us in preaching for two hours!" 

I had to laugh. 

It is said that Jesus preached "good news" to the poor.

I'm wondering what really "good news" might sound and look like for folks on the streets today? 

Is it a sermon filled with religious doctrine to be believed? 

Or, might it be a leisurely meal accompanied by encouraging table talk, unrushed among friends? 

Friday, November 09, 2012


I wish I had asked for a photograph. 

His beard was magnificent! 

The slightly built, Caucasian man rode up on a nice looking bicycle just as I was unloading more water from my truck for distribution on "the Corner."

"Have anything to eat?" he asked hopefully.

"No, sorry," I replied, "just water today."

"That's okay," he said.

His name is Terry. 

"Nice bike," I observed.  "It looks new."

"No, not new, but in pretty good shape," he commented.  "A guy gave me this bike."

"Really?" I responded.

"Yes, he ran over my old one, so he gave me this one as a replacement," he explained as I admired his ride.

We talked for a long time.  He explained that he was a street entertainer.

"I do card tricks and tell jokes for tips," he informed me. 

"Where?" I asked.

"Deep Ellum," he replied. 

"So, you work the clubs on the sidewalks?" I asked.

"Yes, but I know which ones to pick," he beamed. 

He told me that he had staked out a private, secret place where he stowed his belongings and where he bedded down.  He didn't like the shelters because once in, you can't get out until early morning. 

"I don't have much stuff," he noted as we talked about securing belongings.

"Really, if you're happy on the inside and a pleasant person on the outside, that's all that matters," he declared. 

"Happy on the inside" and "a pleasant person on the outside"--hmmm. 

Sounds like a Rx for contentment. 

"I used to be materialistic, but I've gone beyond that," he told me. 

Wisdom from a new friend.  I'd never seen Terry before yesterday. 

I certainly hope to see him again. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Post-racial America?

The First Amendment protects free speech.  At times though, it can be tough to stomach what some people feel so free to "share" (read "spew" just here!).

The following clip calls in question the notion that we now live in a "post-racial America."  No doubt, we've made progress against the evil of racism.  But racial animus is far from dead in this nation.

As we work in neighborhoods, with community institutions and among low-income persons, we must not forget the negative, destructive power of racism and hatred.  Racist actions, statements and attitudes serve only to destroy authentic community.

In addition, we must work hard to improve the tone and tenor of civic discourse.  We don't have to hate those with whom we disagree.

I look forward to your reactions after you've watched.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Respect among friends

Here's a video shoot of the giant meal we enjoyed last week just down the street from "the Porch."

The idea originated during a conversation I was having with a homeless friend.  

"You know what?" he declared as we spoke.

"No, what?" I replied.

"We need to throw a big-ole party out here for everyone!"

So, we did!

The event included about 300 homeless neighbors, construction workers from across the street, local business owners, students from Abilene Christian University, CitySquare team members, folks from bcWorkshop and passersby!  In all, thanks to Edd Eason and his amazing, gigantic smoker on a trailer,  we provided a great lunch for about 400 folks.

But the event wasn't about feeding.  It was all about enjoying real friendship.  It was a luncheon thrown in honor of RESPECT.

Simple as that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Our freedom doesn't come easy. . .ever!

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act 1965, I was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school.  I had no way of understanding just how significant this day was.  Nor did I comprehend the amazing sacrifice that brought it about.

I voted again this year.

How could anyone not vote in view of the investment of life and limb and suffering that brought about this freedom in our nation for all of us?

[Thanks to NBC KXAS-Channel 5 Anchor, Mark Hayes for sharing this historic photo via Twitter!]

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Just email with size and the number of shirts you would like to purchase.  

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Email us at or call 214.303.2130 today!

Monday, November 05, 2012


Interesting facts about the Dallas-Fort Worth area

If you make $50,000 annually in Dallas, you'd need the following salaries to maintain the status quo in these cities: 
     San Antonio-$48,971
     San Francisco-$113,714
     Los Angeles-$82,057

Annual mean wage:
     2005:  $45,146
     2009:  $49,856
     2011:  $46,160

Metro-area population:
     2005:  5,816,407
     2009:  6,447,615
     2011:  6,526,548

Interesting stats:
     2.6  Average household size
     21.1  % of obese adults
     31.8  Median resident age
     27.7 % of adults with at least a bachelor's degree
     58 % of family households
     1,603 Number of full-service restaurants
     $1,196 Average monthly rent for one-bedroom apartment
     $135,600 Estimated median house or condo value
     $87,400 Estimated median house or condo value in 2000

Unemployment rate:
     5.8% July 2008
     8.7% July 2009
     9.1% July 2010
     8.9% July 2011
     7.9% July 2012

[This information gleaned from The Dallas Business Journal week of October 26, 2012, page 11.]

Sunday, November 04, 2012

 I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

--Wilbur Rees
Source: Leadership, Vol. 4, No. 1
Found at inward/outward

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sam: we aren't always successful

We received the following message from Martin Cramer, Vice President Public Safety with Downtown Dallas, Inc.(DDI), the Central Business District (CBD) trade organization with which CitySquare has a contract to provide outreach via our Homeless Outreach Team (HOT Team).  

This sad news is indicative of the fact that our work is hard, the outcomes imperfect and the pain and frustration predictable.  

The news is even more devastating and harder to accept because of the fact that Sam was on the track to a better life before tragedy struck. 

Please remember his family and all of us who knew him.  

I am very sorry to report that one of our former CBD chronic inebriates - Sam passed away.

The DDI Homeless Outreach Team had been working with Sam (27) for several years - he was recently placed into housing and treatment.

Sam died from complications of being stabbed last Wed.  He died on Friday at Baylor, we just found out today. Christina Rosales with Dallas Morning News wrote an article about his death.  Suspect in custody has been charged with murder.

Friday, November 02, 2012


CitySquare and Abilene Christian University formed a partnership earlier this year that resulted in the emergence of ACU@CitySquare! This video captures one visit of Honors College students to South Dallas--Fair Park where they focused on housing and community development. Great snapshot into the amazing potential of the new partnership.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The gift of children, a gift to a child

All who work among adults would do well to remember this truth, both for the sake of the children and the adults.

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

--Rachel Carson